What’s The Difference Between Urgent Care and ER?

Difference Between Urgent Care and ERWhen you are sick or injured you know that you need medical attention, but how do you know where you should go for the most appropriate care? Your options are your local Urgent Medical Center, the Emergency Room, or your primary physician. The option you pick can alter how much you spend out of pocket, and the treatment you are able to receive. All too often patients go to the Emergency Room when they should really visit Urgent Care, and visa-versa.

In simplicity, you need the added assistance provided by an Emergency Room facility is if you have an organ, limb, or life on the line. If you are sick, maybe even really sick, but not concerned with impaired limbs or failing organs, Urgent Care is likely the answer. The difference is in the language; does your condition require urgent attention, or emergency attention?

Allow us to further clarify and provide answers about the differences between Urgent Care and the Emergency Room.

When Should You Visit Urgent Care?

Urgent care offers extended hours of operation in order to help you get the medical attention you need when your primary physician is busy or not in the office. Urgent Medical centers are not equipped with the tools necessary to react in a life or death situation. To avoid an unnecessarily high bill, you should go to Urgent Care if your symptoms do not require emergency treatment.

Common illnesses and injuries treated at Urgent Medical Centers include:

– Fever
– Stomach flu or cold
– Pink eye
– Food poisoning
– A sprain, or other minor physical trauma
– Joint pain
– Minor burns
– Ear infection
– Sore throat
– Vomiting or diarrhea
-Pain when urinating

When Should You Visit The Emergency Room?

The emergency room is open 24 hours a day, 7-days a week. It is equipped with the tools necessary to react in a potentially life-threatening situation. Your local ER must keep a lot of expensive machinery and life-saving devices ready to go, meaning operating costs are very high. Most insurance plans will cover a portion of your Emergency Room bill, but ER co-pay is likely to cost a lot more than Urgent Care co-pay.

What Happens If You Visit The ER For A Non-Emergency?

Almost all insurance plans void coverage for routine care at the Emergency Room. If you go to the emergency room for a non-emergency, the ER is still going to treat you the same but your insurance will not. If your insurance finds your reason for going to the ER a ‘non-emergency’ they will most likely deny coverage for the visit. Insurance companies follow a set of guidelines to determine if a medical condition is an emergency or not. In order for an emergency to be considered, the condition must present an obvious danger to your health, with the risk for permanent damage, death, or dysfunction of certain organs, limbs, or you. If your insurance company denies your claim for coverage you will be left to pay a very high ER bill.

Some reasons you should go to the Emergency Room include:

– Chest pain that flows into your arm or jaw, especially if accompanied by shortness of breath, vomiting, or sweating
– Inability to catch your breath
– Difficulty talking, walking, or performing regular day-to-day tasks.
 – Severe symptoms associated with a cold or flu
– Loss of vision
– Injuries to the head or eyes
– Broken bones
– Dislocated joints
– Intestinal bleeding
– Very high fever accompanied by rash
– Serious burns

In some cases you need medical attention faster than driving to the ER can provide, in which case you want to call 911. For example, if you are bleeding severely, having deep chest pains, or are not safely able to drive yourself, it’s best to play it safe and call medics for help.

ER or Urgent Care? Questions To Help You Decide

So is it your local Urgent Care or the Emergency Room? If you are struggling to decide, here are some questions you can ask yourself to better identify the right place for your medical treatment.

  • If you wait a few hours from now, are you worried you may or may not be alive or coherent?
  • Does your insurance have a 24-hour help line? If so you can call and ask about their coverage in regards to your current situation and available options.
  • Can you safely drive yourself? If your illness or injury prevents you from driving, or performing normal activities, the Emergency Room might be where you need to go.

Come Prepared For Medical Treatment

No matter if you go to Urgent Care or the ER you want to come prepared with knowledge of your medical history and current state of health, including any medications you are taking. Certain medications, allergies, and illnesses can interfere with treatment plans an urgent care or ER doctor plans to use.

Are you still unsure if Urgent Care is right for you? We are happy to help, give our friendly staff at Urgent Medical Center a call at (951) 321-5191!


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